Russia sends forces to Ain Issa to deter clashes between Kurdish, Turkey-backed fighters

Russia has sent more troops to an area in northern Syria where Turkey-backed fighters have clashed with Kurdish-led forces near a strategic highway patrolled by Russian and Turkish troops, Reuters reported.

“Earlier, during negotiations with the Turkish side, agreements were reached on the deployment of joint Russian-Syrian observation posts,” the Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday, according to Reuters. “Additional units of the Russian military police have arrived in the Ain Issa area today (Sunday) to step up efforts to stabilize the situation.”

Clashes between the Turkey-backed fighters and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) erupted earlier this month near the town of Ain Issa, which sits on the strategic M4 highway that connects northeast Syria.

Moscow called on both sides to de-escalate and said it had not detected shelling from Turkish-backed fighters in the last 24 hours, according to Reuters.

The Russian deployment comes ahead of talks between the foreign ministers of Russia and Turkey in Sochi on Tuesday. They are expected to discuss Syrian developments, particularly in the northwest Idlib province, the last major bastion for rebel and Islamist groups fighting the Russia-backed Syrian government, Hurriyet reported on Monday, December 28.

A senior Turkish defense source told Reuters that Turkey would use the meeting to push its demand for the withdrawal of the Kurdish-majority People’s Protection Unit (YPG) militia, which leads the SDF.

The Turkish government views the YPG as an extension of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed group designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. The SDF has proven a key ally of Western allies in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS).  

“The YPG must definitely leave Ain Issa and there is a readiness to take every kind of step to this end,” the Turkish source said.

The SDF confirmed last week that it agreed to allow Russia to establish military positions around Ain Issa to deter further clashes with Turkey-backed armed groups.

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